Production director Tracy Windrum has three rubber toys on his office windowsill: a shark, a rat and a black widow spider. Each could symbolize the hazards that Windrum, 37, faces every week in overseeing the manufacture and distribution of 3.8 million copies of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. "You have to deal with the demands of late-closing stories, the satellite transmission of the pages to eight regional printing plants and the production of several hundred versions of the magazine, all different in terms of advertising," he says. "Then you have to make sure the magazine reaches our readers on time."
Windrum's biggest task for this week's issue was making sure that photographs of the Mike Tyson-Tony Tubbs fight (page 20) in Tokyo reached our editors in New York as soon as possible so that layouts for the story could be created. Because the fight started at 10 p.m. EST on Sunday, there wasn't enough time to fly the photos back and still meet our publishing deadline—most of SI's stories close on Sunday and Monday, and the printing plants need film by 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
So Windrum dispatched technical representative Jeff Graves and some high-tech transmission equipment to Tokyo, secured an engraver there and made arrangements to have the slides transmitted over telephone lines. After the fight the film was developed at a Tokyo lab. Assistant managing editor Jerry Kirshenbaum, along with director of photography Joe Marshall, on hand for the fight, culled several of the best shots, which Graves then brought to the engraver.
Starting at 5 a.m. on Monday, the four-color slides were scanned and converted into digitized information by the engraver and then sent by telephone lines to the Image Processing and Color Transmission (IMPACT) center in the Time & Life Building in Manhattan. IMPACT turned the information into four-color page proofs, and the images were put into the layouts. "Without this capability, we couldn't cover an event so far away so late in the week," says Windrum.
As usual during a Monday closing, our production chief spent the rest of the day "all over the place—on the phone, down at the IMPACT center, up with editors, worrying, cajoling, encouraging." Windrum was still at it, in fact, long after most of the staff had gone home that night—he just wanted to be sure that none of those sharks or rats or black widows were still lurking about.